Not a long time ago I had the pleasure to be invited in Cortina d’Ampezzo by Hotel Ambra. Thanks to its kind locandiera, innkeeper, I had the opportunity to live an amazing weekend with my husband, surrounded by the Dolomites, tasting good food and relaxing a bit from the everyday life. I will now explain what to do in Cortina. Or, at least what I did.
The forecast had not been kind to us. For all week I had been looking at the weather app on my mobile and all it said was: heavy rain all weekend. I was pretty resigned at that point. Instead, the weather spared us the most of the time. Moreover, we had the unique pleasure to be the spectator of an unusual phenomenon. As you can see in the photos below we really experienced all kind of weathers in one weekend. But, first things first.
The Queen of the Dolomites
Cortina d’Ampezzo is also known as the Queen of the Dolomites. Exclusive Mountain Resort, it has been chosen by several Hollywood stars for their holidays: Sophia Loren, Clark Gable, Ingrid Bergman, Brigitte Bardot.
About 100 films were shot in this gem. The most famous is probably The Pink Panther, starring Peter Sellers and David Niven. So hilarious! A reader pointed out to me on Facebook that also a James Bond with Roger Moore was filmed there.
Admire the quaint houses
We arrived on Saturday afternoon. Once you reach the Cadore area, the road is very pleasant and full of picturesque sights. Like the ancient Customs houses, both lovely in my opinion. They seems fairy tale houses.
Once in Cortina, we reached Hotel Ambra, which is very nicely located, just outside the pedestrian area, so you can reach it by car and use their parking lot.
Our room was on the second floor, the one with the rooms all dedicated to mother nature. In fact they are all white, green and yellow, inspired by the colors of the Dolomites, their meadows and their flowers. We immediately opened the welcome prosecco bottle for a brindisi on the balcony and ate some fruits and the two baci Perugina chocolates. The wifi was perfectly working so that I could immediately share my experience with you on Instagram!
We then unpacked our bags and familiarized ourselves with our room. I almost didn’t want to use the soap, it was too beautiful. A round white soap with carvings representing a mountain landscape.
Passeggiata and shopping in Corso Italia
We went out for a walk and a couple of photos. Cortina’s main street is called Corso Italia and it’s famous for its fancy boutiques, featuring brands like Valentino, Furla, Moncler, but also antiques, home design and jewellery shops.
We made a bit of window-shopping and then we made a tour of the Cooperativa, a sort of mall I used to visit with my mother when I was a child. She loved it. There you can find everything: from souvenirs to kitchenware, from clothes to stationery. I obviously spent a lot of time in the kitchen section.
We had dinner in a cute restaurant in the centre, but honestly it didn’t won me over completely, so I prefer not to quote it. I appreciated more the pizza at Pizzeria Il Ponte, where we had dinner the day after. Good pizza, good dessert and very kind staff.
On Sunday, the weather was very threatening. We therefore enjoyed a slow and copious breakfast in the little cozy room, adorned with wooden furniture, paintings and sculptures of the beginning of the XX century. To me the highlight was the fresh fruit and the crispy bread, obviously with butter and raspberry jam.
Reach a mountain shelter
After breakfast we headed to Rifugio Cinque Torri (Five Towers shelter). I chose it for two reasons. First, it can be reached by car, and sadly my husband hates chairlifts and cable cars, due to his vertigo. Even if the road is super winding and steep (it goes up til 2.137m). Second, from there you can reach a second shelter, at 2.255 meters above the sea level, called Rifugio Scoiattoli (Squirrels).
The climb is simple, all things considered, even for people out of shape like me. In about 30 minutes by foot we were up, enjoying a panorama that alone was worth the effort and the whole weekend.
Winter is coming
The time to take some pictures and to realize that the weather was rapidly changing, we decided to go back to the first place, to have lunch and rest a bit. As soon as we entered the rifugio (displaying a funny sign, by the way) and we sat at a table, it started snowing. Yes! In September! OK, we were at over 2000 meters above the sea level. But it was so odd all the same. And beautiful. For about 40 minutes, during the whole meal (clearly, two warm soups: goulash and barley plus some potatoes and speck), we could see giant snowflakes dancing in the air outside the windows. Very romantic!
Live a close encounter
Shortly after lunch, the snow stopped. We took the car to continue exploring and we had a special encounter going down: a sheep flock. I get off the car and took photos, I familiarized with the sheeps, while the two dogs were staring at me, trying to understand if I was a threaten for their precious flock or not. I wasn’t, luckily.
Tales of old times
We then went to see the former children’s camp for victims of tuberculosis. My mother was one of those kids and she stayed there a long time. For ages I listened to her tales of those times. For example she used to tell me that she gave me a short name because at that camp they were forced to embroider their full names in every towel, napkin, handkerchief, underwear and all. Her name was long, and she hated that. But she loved the place, always stressing the kindness of the nuns, and how they were fond of her. Anyway, the place now is totally different. It was renovated and divided in apartments (on sale). I just wanted to see it.
Next destination, Lago di Misurina, Misurina Lake. But that’s when the weather decided it desired to rain, so it started. No passeggiata around the lake, then, but just a quick stop.
We returned to Cortina, and we took our time to relax in our room. After all, it should have been a trip to recharge our batteries. I had a long shower (by the way, the shower was very comfy, quite big), utterly appreciating the courtesy set: not only shower gel and shampoo but also body milk and hair conditioner for a complete care of myself. Refreshed, I started reading my Veneto guide in order to discover other places to visit in the surroundings.
What to do in Cortina – other ideas
Cortina is full of possibilities for day trips if you’re a hiker or a skier. Many trails, many ski slopes, but… What to do in Cortina in rain? If like me, you find a menacing weather, you can visit the local museums: Modern Art Museum or the Paleontology museum. Or you can do shopping. Or stop at the (they say) amazing Alverà pastry shop (also closed when we passed by, dam it!)
Pieve di Cadore
A little out of town, I’d suggest a visit to Pieve di Cadore if you’re Titian lovers: here you can visit the house where he was born and one of his first paintings in the local church. Plus, right next to the house, there’s a Glasses Museum… I would have gladly visited it (but it was closed when we passed by on Monday).
Cibiana di Cadore
Cibiana is another idea. It’s a tiny village. It seemed semi abandoned. No one around or quite. Many houses are adorned by colorful murales. And also there are a lot of quaint corners. I will write a separate post about it.
Longarone and the Vajont museum. Going back home we decided to stop in this village, that for us Italians represents one of the most obscure and painful moments of our history. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the tragedy that happened here in 1963, when a landslide caused a massive water wave that killed almost 2.000 people. We visited the museum and it was a deeply touching experience. I’m still doubtful if to write a post about it or not.
By the way, Longarone is also famous for its gelato. To cheer up a bit we in fact stopped for a gelato cup after going home. It was really good. We chosed the old fashioned historical café called Perin.
Our weekend in Cortina d’Ampezzo was quite exciting weekend, between sheeps, snow, food, rain, sun, art, moving moments, quaint places and breathtaking views.
Thanks again to Hotel Ambra for the kind and appreciated invitation. As always opinions are entirely my own.